How did Jesus seek to counter religious misunderstandings of God’s law? He set out to tell the truth about His Father and the kind of obedience that is really pleasing to Him. He often did so at great risk on the Sabbath. You would think it was all innocent and good. He simply healed people and helped them on the Sabbath. But those gloomy legalists were shocked and they denounced Him for disobeying the law. Think of it! The Lawgiver was being denounced as a lawbreaker! “No,” Jesus responded, “I am not come to destroy the law and the prophets” (which meant not just the Ten Commandments, but the whole Old Testament), “I have not come to destroy them, I have come to fulfill them” (based on Matthew 5:17). In other words, He had come to explain their deeper meaning in both word and action.
By teaching and example, especially on the Sabbath, Jesus set out to correct these misunderstandings of God’s law and to explain what it was all about. He said the law was given for you. Especially was the Sabbath given for you, to be an advantage, not a restriction. He said this as He defended the right of the disciples to pluck some ears of grain, rub them in their hands, and eat them (Mark 2:23): “The Sabbath was made for you—you weren’t made for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). Jesus was telling them, in essence, “The Sabbath that you work so hard to keep and which has become such a burden to you, was given to help you, not to be a restriction and certainly not to be a mere test of obedience. If only you knew the truth about God and His laws, you would find that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light.” Look at those famous words in Matthew:
Come to me, all of you who toil and are burdened, and I will let you rest. Let my yoke be put upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble-minded, and your hearts will find rest, for the yoke I offer you is a kindly one, and the load I ask you to bear is light (Matt 11:28-30, Goodspeed).
Jesus came gently and humbly to them, even though He was God Himself. You would think the people would be relieved to hear all this right from headquarters. But instead, they accused the Son of God of blasphemously misrepresenting His Father. They even said that it was the Devil who made Him talk about God and His laws like this (John 8:48)! And so they condemned Him as lawless and crucified Him as a heretic.